South Africa and England are set to meet each other in the 39th fixture of the seventh edition of ICC T20 World Cup at Sharjah later tonight at 8.00 pm Bangladesh time.
As the Proteas face complicated equations towards their way to the semis, the Three Lions are looking forward to continuing their undefeated streak and consolidating their position at the top of Group 1.
After losing their inaugural fixture against Australia, South Africa managed to come back pretty strongly as they defeated West Indies, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in the following fixtures.
On the back of these three successive victories, the Proteas could not have asked to be in any better position psychologically ahead of this all-important do or die match against England.
Especially, the way they blew Bangladesh away in their most recent fixture must give them some added boost to face, probably the toughest opposition in this group.
As for the equations regarding the semis, the Proteas must hope for a West Indies victory over Australia to have any chance of a possible qualification. A win for the Caribbeans will have them at 4 points and the Aussies at 6.
In that case, a South Africa win over English will seal the Proteas a semi-final spot with 8 points in the bag.
However, if Australia win against West Indies, South Africa will still have an outside chance to qualify. But that will require them to win against England at a significant margin to overtake Australia in the Net Run Rate – which seems very unlikely considering the state of form the Three Lions are having in this tournament so far.
Temba Bavuma, the skipper of South Africa, is aiming at approaching the game more accurately looking at the result of the Australia vs West Indies match earlier today.
"It has been labelled as a quarterfinal for us. It's a must-win game. I think that's the main point. Irrespective of where Australia is within the group, we want to win that game, and we'll be striving to do so. What's happening with Australia, West Indies, I guess what helps us is that their game happens before our game, so we'll kind of get a better sense of understanding as to how we need to approach the England game," he was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
England, on the other hand, have already secured a spot in the Semi-Finals. They are currently leading the points table in Group 1 and are likely to continue doing so even if they lose tonight since they (+3.183) have a massive edge over both Australia (+1.031) and South Africa (+0.742) in terms of Net Run Rate.
Having said that, England will never be thinking in that direction and must be eager to make it five out of five in Super 12.
English captain Eoin Morgan recognizes the challenges of a Sharjah pitch and thinks, as quoted by ESPNcricinfo, staying in the game is the key to success here.
"I certainly don't think it's a wicket where you can take a lot of confidence away from batting quite a period of time on it - I don't think many of the guys felt 'in' regardless of how they batted. But being in that fight for the game is going to be extremely important if the wicket stays the same."
South Africa are likely to carry on with an unchanged XI. However, if they consider going with three spinners, although less likely, the left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin will get a go.
England, however, are forced to replace Tymal Mills, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament due to the injury he suffered in their last game against Sri Lanka.
Mark Wood, recovering from his ankle niggle, is expected to be the possible replacement although skipper Morgan stressed that they would be patient with his return.
Should England decide to allow Wood further rest, they will be left to choose one from David Willey, Tom Curran and Reece Topley.
These two sides have met each other on 22 occasions in T20Is so far with England leading the dual at an 11-9 margin. Interestingly enough, the last five encounters between these two teams have all been won by the Three Lions.
However, in the history of the T20 World Cups, South Africa have the upper hand with a 3-2 lead.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU).